Toby Jug

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Toby Jug, made by Ralph Wood (the Younger), Burslem, c. 1782-1795; lead-glazed earthenware.

A Toby Jug, also sometimes known as a Fillpot (or Philpot), is a pottery jug in the form of a seated person, or the head of a recognizable person. Typically the seated figure is a heavy-set, jovial man holding a mug of beer in one hand and a pipe of tobacco in the other and wearing 18th-century attire: a long coat and a tricorn hat. The tricorn hat forms a pouring spout, often with a removable lid, and a handle is attached at the rear. Jugs depicting just the head and shoulders of a figure are also referred to as Toby jugs, although these should strictly be called "character jugs"[1] or face jugs, the wider historical term.

The original Toby Jug, with a brown salt glaze, was developed and popularised by Staffordshire potters in the 1760s.[2] It is thought to be a development of similar Delft jugs that were produced in the Netherlands.[3] Similar designs were produced by other potteries, first in Staffordshire, then around England, and eventually in other countries. The Jug in the form of a Head, Self-portrait (1899) by Paul Gauguin is an unusual example from a painter. They were made in the 1760s in the Netherlands.


There are competing theories for the origin of the name "Toby Jug".[4] One is that it was named after the intoxicated, jovial character of Sir Toby Belch in Shakespeare's play Twelfth Night.[citation needed] Another is that it was named after a notorious 18th-century Yorkshire drinker, Henry Elwes, who was known as "Toby Fillpot" (or Philpot),[5] who was mentioned in an old English drinking song The Brown Jug, the popular verses of which were first published in 1761.

Cultural references[edit]

In the book and 1949 film Twelve O'Clock High a Toby Jug depicting Robin Hood is used as a signal in the officer's club, to discreetly warn aircrews that there will be a mission the following day, without revealing this to outsiders who might be visiting. The Toby Jug plays a pivotal role in the film.

A Toby Jug collector and her large collection also figure prominently in the plot of the Bravo/Netflix series Imposters.


The American Toby Jug Museum is located on Chicago Avenue in Evanston, Illinois, US.


  1. ^ "History of Toby Jugs".
  2. ^, Meta Groove. "American Toby Jug Museum - Toby & Character Jugs - History".
  3. ^ The Art of the Old English Potter, By Louis Marc Emmanuel Solon, Forgotten Books, September, 2015, p. 245, ISBN 978-1331549598
  4. ^ Dale, Jean (2003) [1991]. Royal Doulton Jugs. A Charlton Standard Catalogue (7th ed.). North York, Canada: The Charlton Press. p. vii. ISBN 0-88968-280-1.
  5. ^ "My first Toby Jug! Toby Philpot - Collectors Weekly".

External links[edit]